Monday, December 11, 2017

Detroit Baby Boomer Kids Show Hosts

Poopdeck Paul, Milky the Clown, Captain Jolly, Jingles, Johnny Ginger, and Bozo the Clown.


Late in 1950, Twin Pines Dairy wanted to sponsor a children's show with cartoons, western movies, and a magic clown called Milky. The dairy owner had seen magician Clare Cummings perform in the Detroit area and offered him the job. Cummings created the Milky makeup and his wife made his costume patterned after the clown in the opera Pagliacci. Milky the Clown was born. Between commercial breaks, Milky performed magic tricks and hosted the day's movie. When he performed his tricks, Milky would always say the magic words "Twin Pines."

In the days of only four TV broadcasters in the Detroit area, Milky worked at all three American channels. Milky's Movie Party debuted on December 16, 1950 at  WJBK-channel two. In 1955, Milky moved to WXYZ--channel seven with the same show except with Little Rascals shorts. In 1958, the show moved for the last time to WWJ--channel four with a slightly different title Milky's Party Time. 

Party Time included a live audience and competitions between boys and the girls. Winners would chose a prize from the Twin Pines Toy House. Milky the Clown ended for Cummings in 1964 when he gave up the costume and makeup to make more money in industry.

Clare Cummings died on October 31, 1994, the same day as another noteworthy magician's death in Detroit in 1926--Harry Houdini. Cummings donated most of his magic tricks and one of his costumes to the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan. They are on permanent display.

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In 1957, Windsor, Ontario broadcaster CKLW--channel nine purchased 234 Max Fleisher Popeye cartoons and they were looking for someone to host Popeye and Friends for their 6:00 pm time slot. Toby David portrayed Captain Jolly. Captain's Jolly's first mate was Poopdeck Paul portrayed by Paul Schultz, who worked the weekend slot. The show was popular but ended in 1964 as CKLW decided to cancel the show. Captain Jolly would address his kiddie audience as his "Chipmates" in his best bad-German accent.
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Jerry Gale was working as a stand-up comedian in Toledo, Detroit, and Windsor scratching out a living. In 1957, he auditioned for a new WXYZ program showing Three Stooges shorts called Curtain Time. The station manager insisted that Gale work under the name Johnny Ginger. Ginger's character was dressed as a stagehand in bib overalls. He would open the curtain and close the curtain for every show. Curtain Time ran from 1957 until 1960 when the show was rebranded under the name The Johnny Ginger Show running from 1960 through 1968. Ginger changed his costume to a bellhop uniform and became a fan favorite.

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Jingles in Boofland was purchased from a Fort Wayne, Indiana station by CKLW in 1958 for their weekly 5:00 pm time slot. Jerry Booth's character was a court jester and not a clown. He wore no makeup. His costume covered with bells jingled whenever he moved. 

Jingles lived in the mythical kingdom of Boofland--a play on Booth's last name. The show did not have a studio audience to compromise the fantasy of the medieval castle, the parapet, the archway, and several set pieces which allowed kids watching at home to work their imaginations. His two sidekicks were puppets, Herkimer Dragon and Cecil B. Rabbit. 

Herkimer, Jingles, and Cecil B.
Jingles played the straight man reacting to the puppets' eccentric behaviors. The rabbit was a bossy know-it-all. The dragon was a soft-spoken buffoon who did stupid things all the time. Occasional puffs of smoke would come out of Herkimer's mouth. Inside the puppet's head was a tube. Off-stage actor and voice of the puppets Larry Sand would light up a cigarette and blow smoke through the tube creating a fire-breathing dragon effect.

Jingles's comedy skits and running gags were wrapped around the Warner Brothers cartoons and Laurel and Hardy shorts that the program served up. Jingles in Boofland ended in the early sixties.

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CKLW Detroit/Windsor Bozo--Art Cervi
The original Bozo the Clown was created by Alan W. Livingston in the 1940s for a storytelling record album. The character first appeared on TV in 1949. The rights to Bozo were purchased in 1956 by Larry Harmon. Harmon franchised the character across America, so every major television market had their own Bozo the Clown showing Bozo cartoons.

In 1965 when cable TV was taking hold, Harmon began to syndicate Bozo's Circus from Chicago and took the show to a national audience. Individual stations no longer needed their own Bozos, nor could they compete with the new format. In 1978, the show was bouncing off satellites and appearing worldwide.

Bob McNea was Detroit's first Bozo for WWJ from 1959-1967. Jerry Booth took over the role for CKLW but lasted only a month. Booth did not like putting on the heavy stage makeup or the anonymity of being Bozo. Art Cervi took over the role. He donned the red wig and clown suit from 1967 through 1979 when his contract ran out.

The above photo of Bozo needs some context. Bozo was doing a live appearance in Tiger Stadium. His makeup and wig are exaggerated so the crowd could see him from a distance. "Whoa, Nelly!" Normally, he wasn't that scary.

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No survey of Detroit's kid show hosts would be complete without mention of the King of Detroit Kiddie Comedy--Soupy Sales. His show Lunch with Soupy ran at noon on WXYZ from 1953 until 1960.

I remember Lunchtime as a half-hour romp of slapstick, word play, and improvisation. Soupy's signature trademarks were the "pie in the face" and his dance the "Soupy Shuffle." No cartoons, just Soupy and his puppets White Fang, Black Tooth, and Pookie.

Most people are unaware that Milton Supman (Soupy Sales) held a master's degree in journalism. Soupy warrants his own post:

https://fornology.blogspot.com/2017/06/lunch-with-soupy-sales-in-detroit.html